Multi-step control over self-assembled hydrogels of peptide-derived building blocks and a polymeric cross-linker†
We present a detailed study of self-assembled hydrogels of bundled and cross-linked networks consisting of positively charged amyloid-like nanofibers and a triblock copolymer with negatively charged end blocks as a cross-linker. In a first step small oligopeptides self-assemble into macrocycles which are held together by reversible disulfide bonds. Interactions between the peptides cause the macrocycles to assemble into nanofibers, which form a reversible hydrogel. The physical properties of the hydrogel are tuned using various methods such as control over the fibre length, addition of a cross-linking copolymer, and addition of salt. We establish a relationship between the bulk mechanical properties, the properties of the individual fibers and the hydrogel morphology using characterization techniques operating at different length scales such as rheology, atomic force microscopy (AFM) and cryo transmission electron microscopy (Cryo-TEM). This allows for a precise control of the elastic behaviour of these networks.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 7th EuCheMS Chemistry Congress – Molecular frontiers and global challenges